Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Homeschooling as Abuse - The Reality

Authors note: I am not specifically against homeschooling, I am against abusive homeschooling, and references to homeschooling below refer to isolating religious abusive homeschooling, although I caution readers that it may not be easy to see the difference. 

I wrote before about trying to explain to my mother why homeschooling can be abusive, especially if combined with patriarchal quiverfull religion.

It might be helpful to know the past. In the past I was homeschooled, in a manner of speaking. My parents believed in homeschooling, and therefore kept us all home instead of sending us to school. This meant that we did not get to socialize with other children. What is written below was my own family's experience over the years, but it is a typical experience in one particular homeschool group we were part of for some time.

There was an effort made to be involved with other homeschooled children. This is a very ineffective method of socialization. Other homeschooled children are typically in the same position: parentalized children, who don't know how to play with other children, who are taught that they are too smart/special/unique/precious/fragile for school. Homeschool groups are filled with children who respond to the abnormal stimulus in their lives in one of two ways: they tend to either absorb the message that they are not as good as other people and are in the world to serve others, or they absorb the message that they are the best at whatever it is they excel at, and are the big fish in the little pond. Homeschooled children bully each other in these groups, but it is not recognized because the stronger children feel that they are occupying their rightful place in the world, and the bullied children also feel they are occupying their rightful place in the world. Placing a child in a situation where they must either bully or be bullied is abuse.

Homeschool parents often seem proud of the isolated circle that exists in a homeschooled family. The children get up, do chores, eat breakfast, and if they are lucky -and many many are not- they do school work. Then at the end of the day, they do more chores, eat dinner, spend more time with their families, and go to bed. They do it again the next day. This does not teach children to adapt to change, except the added hardship of additional children. Children may learn how to act in a community by going shopping with their mothers, but as the number of children grows, they not only become an oddity or curiosity for others to observe when in town, but usually more of the children get left at home because it is simply impractical to bring that many people to town. If children are left at home, they are then babysat by a parentified child, or they all still go but a parentified child takes on some of the parenting in the community. Making a child into a spectacle for others is abuse. Making a child take on a parental role is abuse. Not teaching children to adapt to change is abuse.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Forgiveness and Power

Over the course of my life I have been instructed to forgive so many times. Ironically, the people who were telling me to forgive were also the people who spent a good deal of time telling me that in reality there was nothing to forgive, or that no wrong doing had occurred. Technically I think this means I am off the hook anyways. But in reality, there was wrong doing from people in my life who were supposed to protect me.
       I now believe that forgiveness is a religious concept. I believe it was created to control people who have been wronged, by investing them with an equal amount of responsibility for the relationship, so that if they do not choose to forgive and rebuild, they have at least half the blame. After all, if you are a person in power, you can do anything. All you need to do is make sure the recipient of wrong doing feels guilt if they do not choose to trust you again.
      I think this can come in so handy for rogue religious leaders and fathers in isolated families. A fear can be fostered over decades that the recipient needs to be open to the idea of allowing similar offences over and over again in the name of forgiveness. The recipient can be handled as many times as needed to allow the cycle to continue.
     There is definitely something to gain if you are already in a position of power. The person in power is already in a position to justify their own actions based on whatever act of god or man put them in power in the first place. I am speaking of power in the small scale, but when a person is in this type of power position, it is easy for them to lose sight of their own place in the world. They can become the king of their own little castle, as it were. They need the concept of forgiveness to exist, so that when they violate the rights of those they control, they can keep that control by inflicting guilt on the recipient.
     I do think that there is some freedom in moving forward, which is often confused with forgiveness. It is a totally different concept in my opinion. In my opinion, moving forward is more about recognizing that those who violate your rights are choosing to do so, and have no reason to change in a vacuum. A recipient of wrong doing does not incur responsibility, but if they are going to take any kind of action, ending the ability of the person in power to retain the cycle of control is not a bad idea.
     Sometimes the only way to break the cycle is to end the relationship. People often seem so horrified by this idea, but why should someone stick around and allow their rights to be violated over and over again in the name of a religious concept that only benefits the wrong-doer? If someone has been traumatized by their own parents, the options are not simply to stick around and try to maintain the relationship or else live in a cess-pool of bitterness and hurt. There is a whole other option out there. You can walk away. You can choose to surround yourself with people who are not interested in violating your rights. When you walk away, you can leave the hurt there too, because you are leaving the source. It isn't as easy as it sounds, but everyone has a right to live their own lives, regardless of wrong doing in the past. This takes time but no one has to submit themselves to a proven risk.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Just imagine for a moment...

Just imagine for a moment a mother of a six year old child. Now, this mother has never been kicked in the head, however, all her friends are kicking their children in the head, and from what she has seen, children who are kicked in the head are very obedient and have lots of time for helping around the house. If she kicks her child in the head she will be able to make sure she is the only person influencing him and can pass her values on to him. It's a kick in the head - other people might judge but who are they to decide what is best for the child? She is pretty sure it will all work out, and she thinks this is what god wants her to do. Other people try to interfere with her process with dire warning but they must not have been kicked in the head properly, or they must be bitter and will eventually learn that their parents were right to kick them in the head: parents always have their children's best interests in mind. She has read some books about kicking children in the head from people who seem very experienced in the field, and has purchased several manuals on the topic, so she is fully equipped. After all, she wouldn't want to create a less than perfect situation for her child! She is the mother! There is a lot of work ahead of this loving mother. She may need to defend her values from naysayers. She will need to maintain perfection so that others do not think she is making mistakes. She is doing the right thing for her child. Now imagine this mother with a six year old child: she has never been homeschooled...
Also imagine if you will, another scenario: another mother of a six year old child. This mother was homeschooled. 

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Introduction and a quick snapshot of how I got here

I am 25, and I am the second oldest of 9. My family ran through an eclectic gamut of various churches and ideology (but always pseudo-homeschooling, starting with the ATIA when I was 6). My parents were into all the popular stuff, Michael Pearl, Above Rubies, Keepers at Home, and I am sure there are others but they do not spring to mind. When I was 9 my parents got in trouble with Children's Aid where we were, so we moved to another province and were taken in by Mennonites, so if you can imagine a mix of QF and Mennonite ideology - yes it's nuts. Then when I was 14, they got involved with a chapel/brethren church, which is very much into homeschooling, quiverfull, and subjugation of women. I am not sure where it fit in with all the religion but neither of my parents worked, I think my dad spent a total of maybe a full 12 months (split up) being employed from when I was 7-17. I think this had something to do with the idea from Christian Patriarchy that men are not supposed to be "under" women.
When I was 17 I had enough. I told my parents I was going to school and went, even though my dad tried to physically prevent me, and in a few weeks I made a friend and asked her parents if I could live with them. They said yes. Then I went to a more mainstream church and youth group, finished high school in three years, met and dated my now-husband, and went to university. I have a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Social Work. My husband is a feminist, and believes that men and women should have equal say in everything. That has caused some problems because even though its been 8 years I still sometimes shy away from asserting myself. Due to repeated calls to CAS over the years I was 17-19, my father was eventually convicted (plea bargain) of three counts of assault on a child, and he is now not allowed on my mother's property. My mother is still deeply involved in the chapel/brethren church, which is very patriarchal and conservative, and she still has 3 of my siblings, however she is not as abusive as the both of them were so CAS lets it be. However at this point, every single one of my siblings except my older brother have spent some time living with my husband and I before moving on to make their way in the world.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Homeschooling as Abuse - It Could Happen Again

This is just my own opinion and is not intended to be an evidence-based argument against homeschooling, although in the future I may expand upon it.

This subject is very sensitive to me right now because my mother is actively contemplating pulling my third youngest sibling (second youngest boy) out of school and return to homeschooling. I decided that since homeschooling was not something she was ever subjected to, maybe she should be given the benefit of the doubt, that she didn't know how harmful it can be. 

So a few weeks ago, I called her and told her. My mistake. My conclusion from my conversation with her is that she knows its harmful but doesn't care. I explained to her about social awkwardness and social disconnectedness. She didn't care. I pointed out all the evidence that shows she is not really capable of homeschooling. She blamed me for the original homeschool failure! 

I explained that especially for someone like my brother who has already been unsuccessfully homeschooled (entered Christian school at grade two age, unable to read!), there would be complex interactions of triggers and confusing expectations based on the past, not to mention those on her own psychological experience. She thanked me for my opinion. 

I asked her why she wanted to do it, and all her answers were selfish. I believe homeschooling is a selfish act. It is based on emotions and desires of the parent, often based on fears from their own past bullying or fear of not being able to completely control their children. Also from our conversation I conclude that she thinks its cute and therefore she wants it. She wants the admiration from her fundie church. 

I told her that I had explained how her plan was harmful, and that I couldn't have a relationship with her if she was going to set out to re-victimize another sibling. She told me that was my choice. So far that's the last conversation we have had. Even if she changes her mind, how could I renew my relationship with her? To me, it's the same as if she was contemplating kicking him down the stairs or experimenting with spanking devices again. She knows its mean, she knows its about her, and now she knows its abusive.